Has the Sales Process Changed?

June 18, 2007

When I first ventured out into the real world beyond the shelter of reality I refer to as college, my professional career started far away from the hosting industry. My first position was with a financial services firm with two clear goals:

  1. Pass the Series 7 exam in 5 weeks
  2. Learn how to “work the phones”

I soon found out that "working the phones" basically meant cold calling prospects, sometimes as many as 500 dials a day. We referred to this process as "dialing for dollars". In the financial services world your phone was your lifeline, all the top guys would tell you that if you mastered the art of a phone call, you where golden. After hearing the word "NO" millions of times and developing a really thick skin, I eventually got comfortable on the phone soliciting new customers. The appointments soon followed and I began to build my book of clients. I spent my career as a financial adviser communicating through tools such as telephone, meetings, and seminars which served as the foundation for building my business.

After living through both sides of the dot-com bubble in the stock market and seeing a lot of devastated stock portfolios, I was surprised to learn about a few thriving hosting companies. Much of what I was hearing about these companies was in stark contrast to the feeling on Wall Street, but after a lot of arm twisting from Lance I took a leap of faith and went to work as an enterprise sales representative.

It didn’t take long for me to realize my trustworthy tools for building clients from my previous career were archaic in this new environment. I was introduced to a world where the methods of communication were foreign to me. Email, IM, text messages, sales chat, forums, blogs, ticketing systems were all new to me and never used in my previous career because of compliance and regulatory issues. I realized I needed to embrace these new methods because it was the method my customers and prospects preferred to use. As I became more comfortable using these new channels, my career progressed into management where my responsibilities were expanded to help others.

I find it impossible to explain to my old financial adviser buddies how SoftLayer is building its client base. When I tell them our sales process involves posting in forums and spending hours on sales chat, they look at me like I am from a different world. I’ve learned to explain it like this:

The sales process really hasn’t changed; it is the same stuff that has been taught for a hundred years. What has changed is the method in which we communicate. Instead of forcing people to communicate in uncomfortable old school methods, we focus on communicating with customers and prospects on their terms in a way they prefer to do business.

-Steven

Comments

June 18th, 2007 at 4:12pm

This is so true, Steven. I talk to my customers more on LivePerson, AIM, and email (blackberry *and* office) than any other.

December 22nd, 2008 at 4:55pm

Steven,

I would take your premise even further. Sales is different now that we have different mediums to communicate and this is true for both marketing and sales purposes. I would say that the role of the salesperson has changed as well.

Lets take an example from your company. SoftLayer sales people don't call each lead like you were doing in finance because it is not cost effective to qualify each lead, educate each lead on the benefits you're offering, and then sell them the product. It is more effective to spend the phone time just doing the latter--closing deals. If we think about this from the customer's perspective, then this is true as well and supports your point that we are moving towards communication methods that better meet the needs of the customer. My conclusion is that the better a sales and marketing team meets the needs of the customer, the more they will sell and contrast their competition.

Additionally, this can be a win/win for the seller because they can provide the educational material for the prospect through passive communication (eg.whitepaper or event) that provides the prospect with, to use your example, information on weather to buy the Single processor 5000 series server or a Single processor 3000 series server. With more resourced avaialbe to prospects to research your product your sales people can focus more of their one-on-one time closing deals.

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Comments

June 18th, 2007 at 4:12pm

This is so true, Steven. I talk to my customers more on LivePerson, AIM, and email (blackberry *and* office) than any other.

December 22nd, 2008 at 4:55pm

Steven,

I would take your premise even further. Sales is different now that we have different mediums to communicate and this is true for both marketing and sales purposes. I would say that the role of the salesperson has changed as well.

Lets take an example from your company. SoftLayer sales people don't call each lead like you were doing in finance because it is not cost effective to qualify each lead, educate each lead on the benefits you're offering, and then sell them the product. It is more effective to spend the phone time just doing the latter--closing deals. If we think about this from the customer's perspective, then this is true as well and supports your point that we are moving towards communication methods that better meet the needs of the customer. My conclusion is that the better a sales and marketing team meets the needs of the customer, the more they will sell and contrast their competition.

Additionally, this can be a win/win for the seller because they can provide the educational material for the prospect through passive communication (eg.whitepaper or event) that provides the prospect with, to use your example, information on weather to buy the Single processor 5000 series server or a Single processor 3000 series server. With more resourced avaialbe to prospects to research your product your sales people can focus more of their one-on-one time closing deals.

Leave a Reply

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